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Talent-deep turf festival shaping up
INGLEWOOD, Calif. The biggest disappointment of last year's Hollywood Park fall meeting was the suspension of grass racing and, with it, the stakes-filled turf festival over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
Thankfully, grass racing is back, and on Friday anticipation began to build for next weekend's turf festival when Silent Name, one of the leading candidates for the Grade 1, $400,000 Citation Handicap on Nov. 24, worked six furlongs in 1:12.40 over the Cushion Track surface with exercise rider Felipe Guerrero.
Silent Name most recently finished sixth in the Breeders' Cup Mile after leading to midstretch. Prior to that, he was seventh after a wide trip as the favorite in the Shadwell Mile, from which Breeders' Cup Mile winner Miesque's Approval emerged.
"He came out of his last race even better than I would have expected," Gary Mandella, who trains Silent Name, said at his barn Friday morning. "He shipped twice, to Keeneland and then Churchill Downs. He ran every step of the way in the Breeders' Cup. Flying home, I didn't think he'd run back in the Citation, but he's doing so well it's at least worth entertaining. He did work well. We're at least 50-50 to run."
The 1 1/16-mile Citation is one of three Grade 1 races that will be run next week. An overflow number of entries is expected for the Citation, including Ashkal Way, Becrux, Bravo Maestro, Captain Kurt, Cosmonaut, Courtnall, Hendrix, Lord Admiral, Place Cowboy, Rebel Rebel, Rob Roy, Sweet Return, The Tin Man, Three Valleys, and Whilly.
A maximum of 14 can run, with highweights preferred. With so many wanting to run, this will be the only race of the year where trainers will be glad their horses got a high weight assignment.
A Generous entrant, too
Mandella said Seven Golden Missiles is likely for the Grade 3, $100,000 Generous Stakes for 2-year-olds at one mile on Nov. 24. He worked six furlongs in 1:12.60 on Friday. Others expected to enter the Generous are Edwardian, Golden Balls, Holdin Foldin, Malt Magic, Man to Man, Optari, Quietly Mine, Roman Commander, Streets Ahead, Unusual Suspect, Vaunt, Vauquelin, Warning Zone, and Whatsthescript.
Mandella said Charmvictor is possible for the Grade 3, $150,000 Hollywood Turf Express at six furlongs on Nov. 25. If he goes, he would face Apalachee Tiger, In Summation, Man of Illusion, Osidy, and Sherwood Park.
Who's heading where
The turf festival will feature the West Coast debut of the top turf runner Showing Up, who is scheduled to fly west on Tuesday for the Grade 1, $500,000 Hollywood Derby on Nov. 26. Those expected to face Showing Up are Brother Derek, Crested, Dark Islander, Falcon Scott, Ivan Denisovich, Kip Deville, Obrigado, On Board Again, Vega's Lord, and Zann.
Kip Deville zipped five furlongs in 57.80 seconds here on Friday morning for trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. His time was the second-best of 53 at the distance, behind Captain Kurt.
Also on Nov. 26 is the Grade 1, $500,000 Matriarch Stakes for fillies and mares at one mile on turf. Like the Citation, it is expected to have an overflow number of entries. Pointing for the race are Attima, Beautyandthebeast, Cambiocorsa, Clinet, Danzon, Foxysox, Gwenseb, Malibu Mint, Mea Domina, Memorette, Mirabilis, Phantom Rose, Pommes Frites, Price Tag, Ready to Please, River's Prayer, Society Hostess, Spinning Queen, and Three Degrees. A maximum of 14 can run. First preference is given to horses who have won graded or group stakes this year.
The Grade 3, $100,000 Miesque Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at one mile on Nov. 25 is expected to include Brushed Gold, Courtwood, Down The Well, Foxy Games, Hucking Hot, Mystic Soul, Passified, Spenditallbaby, Super Freaky, and Valbenny.
An Irish-bred, British-raced import currently named Navajo Squaw is also likely for the Miesque, but her name may be changed by next week by The Jockey Club.
Trotamondo in Sunday tune-up
Trotamondo won last year's Native Diver Handicap, then was sidelined for 10 months. After a sprint prep last month at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting, he stretches out to 1 1/16 miles in Sunday's second race, which will serve as a tune-up for this year's Grade 3, $100,000 Native Diver on Dec. 10, trainer Laura de Seroux said Friday.
"The Native Diver is the most appealing race available," de Seroux said. "Our objective this winter would be the Santa Anita Handicap series."
Trotamondo, a three-time Group 1 winner in his native Chile, made just two starts in this country late last year before needing an extended vacation.
"We had been fighting a quarter crack on the inside of his left front hoof, trying to patch it and hold it together," de Seroux said. "But we suffered constant setbacks, and finally had to say 'uncle,' stop, and let it grow out."
Bitter Bill's namesake not bitter at all
Behind every horse named for a person, there's usually a good story. Giacomo, the winner of the 2005 Kentucky Derby, was named for the son of the singer Sting, with whom Jerry and Ann Moss, the owners of Giacomo, have been associated, both personally and professionally, for more than two decades. Dreaming of Anna, this year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner, was named for the late sister of owner Frank Calabrese.
But who could be the inspiration for Bitter Bill, a 2-year-old gelding who won his turf debut in an optional-claiming race on Thursday? Jeff Mullins, who trains Bitter Bill, did not know, but he knew who would. So he called Dan Kyser, the racing manager for Larry Williams - the breeder and owner of Bitter Bill - to find out.
"He was named for a longtime employee of Mr. Williams," Mullins was told by Kyser. "They called him Bitter Bill."
"Was he bitter?" Mullins asked.
"No, actually, he was a pretty nice guy," Kyser replied.
Bitter Bill has now won three times in five starts. Although he was in for an $80,000 claiming tag on Thursday, there were no takers. No one at the Mullins barn was bitter about that.
* Areyoutalkintome, El Don, Iced Out, and King Mobay are among those expected for the $100,000 On Trust Handicap for California-bred sprinters at 7 1/2 furlongs on Thursday.
* Getback Time and Shaggy Mane top the small field expected for the $100,000 Cat's Cradle Handicap for Cal-bred female sprinters at 7 1/2 furlongs on Nov. 24.
* A full stable area, owing to Cushion Track, has energized everyone at Hollywood Park, so much so that even though there were no entries being taken on Friday, agents and jockeys were still out in force.
"It's like the old days," said Jim Pegram, agent for jockey Patrick Valenzuela. "I got here at 6:15, and there were three jocks already at Bobby Frankel's barn. There's life on the backside at Hollywood Park again."